How to Save Money as a Horse Owner
Horse ownership made more affordable...
Let's face it, horses are expensive animals. Between board, farrier, vet bills, tack, training and incidentals, it's easy to spend a hefty amount each month on your equine friend. But there are ways to save money as a horse owner without sacrificing your horse's quality of care.
Board is typically the biggest expense for horse owners. Depending on your region, full board runs anywhere from $300 to $1000, depending on the services provided by the boarding barn. The easiest way to cut your costs is to go with partial or self-care board.
With partial board, you do part of the daily work of feeding and mucking stalls. If you live in close proximity and have the time, doing 20 to 30 minutes of barn chores each day could literally cut hundreds off your boarding bill. Self-care board is also an option. With self-care board, you're simply paying to keep your horse on someone else's land. You do all the feeding and mucking. With these options, you'll be more directly responsible for your horse's daily needs. These are great options if you enjoy seeing your horse on a daily basis and don't mind the barn chores.
Second, shop around for a vet. In my region, there are city vets and country vets. The city vets have large offices, lots of staff and, consequently, higher overhead. Country vets run smaller operations, have less expenses and often charge less for their services. Higher cost doesn't always mean better service.
Another rule of thumb for horse owners is "Never buy new!" You can pay a fortune for horse tack and riding apparel, or you can be smart and buy used. When you need a new pair of boots or a new halter, look on websites like Ebay and Craigslist first. Many tack stores sell items on consignment as well, so you can get everything from boots to saddles to breeches at a fraction of what they would cost new. Consider selling things you don't use as well. Your old saddle could be exactly what someone else is looking for!
You could also consider making your horse work for a living. For example, at my barn I pay reduced board for my horse in exchange for letting the advanced students use him in lessons. If your horse is quiet and sane enough to be used in lessons or take folks out on a trail ride, you may be able to trade his services for free or reduced board.
If your horse can't get a job, maybe you can! Large barns usually need extra help with the grunt work of mucking stalls and filling water buckets. If you have the time and energy to do these chores, you may be able to negotiate a reduced rate on your horse's board. If you're working off part of your board, you may be able to afford a much nicer barn with better amenities than you could if you had to pay full price.
Another rule of thumb for the budget minded horse owner: Don't go to "A" shows. In the horse world there are two types of shows- rated or "A" shows and schooling shows. Rated shows are more prestigious, have better prizes, allow you to "climb the ladder" of the competitive horse world and are more expensive. Schooling shows are usually organized by barns and saddle clubs. They are much less expensive and less high-pressure, but just as much fun! They often include "fun classes" such as a costume class or a leadline class for small children. At a schooling show you can get out and show off your horse, win some ribbons, and meet some new friends, all for a fraction of the cost of a rated show.
Owning a horse is a dream many people feel is out of reach financially. With a little creativity and a can-do attitude, it is possible to see your dream come true. Look for those bargains and don't be afraid to get your hands dirty!